Macron seen winning French TV debate, clashes with Le Pen

Posted March 22, 2017

Voters rated Macron as the strongest performer of the five leading candidates who took part in the first debate of the presidential election campaign on Monday night, watched by almost 10 million viewers, according to snap opinion polls.

"At least this first round of debates points to a good chance that the French elections come and go without much to disturb the markets-but haven't we all learned an important lesson about the polls following Brexit and Trump?", said Ian Lyngen and Aaron Kohli, fixed-income strategists at BMO Capital Markets.

Macron and Le Pen are the favourites to progress to the second round ballot in May, and the debate saw the pair clash on several topics. "When I have something to say, I say clearly", Macron fired back.

Macron - who is running under the progressive En Marche! banner - has continued to gain support in recent weeks.

Five candidates took the stage in Paris, but the debate quickly turned into a showdown between the right-wing populist candidate Marine Le Pen and the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who painted two largely different pictures of France's future.

He said he disagreed with Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron for supporting the lenient immigration policies that Germany has.

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Marine Le Pen, left, smiles as Francois Fillon, right, gets his make-up done.

Le Pen said she wanted to take back control of French borders to "stop immigration, legal and illegal".

For her part Le Pen was combative and belligerent throughout especially when attacked on her hardline on Islam and her plan to pull France out of the euro.

Hamon, the Socialist candidate, argued for a reform to the EU's Dublin asylum system to create humanitarian visas, and he praised the "German model" that allowed asylum seekers to work.

One thing that's been interesting to watch is Francois Fillon.

Le Pen is hoping to ride the wave of populism that led British voters to choose to quit the European Union and swept Donald Trump to power in the United States, though the failure of the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders's party to perform more strongly in his country's general election last week was a setback to her hopes.

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Macron, a former investment banker, came under criticism for private donations made to his campaign when Hamon suggested he could fall under the influence of lobbies in the pharmaceutical, banking or oil industry.

The TV debate was the top trending topic on Twitter in France on Monday before it even started.

The sparring between Le Pen and Macron led to the tensest moments in a debate that all-but avoided the issue of Le Pen's fake jobs case in the European Parliament, as well as the inquiry against Fillon for alleged parliamentary fake jobs for his wife and children.

Six smaller candidates were excluded from Monday's debate.

However, Fillon claimed that holding a Frexit referendum, as the National Front leader wants, would "drag the country into social and economic chaos".

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